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Mining statue is handy work for pitman Don
A TOWERING former miner has been immortalised in art – thanks to his unusually big hands.
Ninety-two-year-old Don Spark boasts a super-sized span due to his large frame – he still stands 6’3” tall and wears size 12 shoes – and a lifetime of hard manual labour down the pits.
So when sculptor Graeme Mitcheson was looking to cast an ex-pitman’s hands for a new mining memorial, Mr Spark fitted like a glove.
The result was a 10ft-tall Kilkenny Limestone pole depicting his hands gripping, as he used to a pick axe at the coalface, outside a new Tesco store, in Bedworth, Warwickshire.
Mr Spark’s son, also called Don, said: “He’s very proud to be honoured like this. He visits regularly and he’s had family visit to see it.”
Mr Spark Snr was born in Pity Me, County Durham, and went into the mines aged 14.
He joined the army in 1940, married and, after being de-mobbed in 1946, returned to the North-East, living in Witton Gilbert and then Sacriston – again working in the mines.
In the early 1960s, the family moved to the Midlands – where Mr Spark worked as a miner until retiring aged 63.
A great-great-grandfather, he now lives in Bedworth on a site where he once worked, when it was Newdigate Colliery.
Tesco commissioned the statue to stand next to its new store in the town. Students at Nicholas Chamberlaine Technology College, in Bedworth, came up with the idea of it having a mining theme.
The artwork was created by Graeme Mitcheson, a Northumberland-born artist and sculptor.
Mr Spark was chosen as the model following an appeal in the Nuneaton News.
He said: “I can’t believe that I have been chosen, but it is a privilege.
“When the sculptor came to see me he couldn’t believe how big my hands are. Nobody can.”
Mr Mitcheson, originally from Ashington, said: “As soon as I saw Don’s huge hands I knew that they were the ones I had to use.”
A plaque erected with the statue credits Mr Spark and Mr Mitcheson for their parts in the project.